Wednesday, May 13, 2020

B/X Bolt-On: Magic

I love B/X. It's the perfect game to noodle around with. I can bend, and break, and change things without having to worry about something else getting jacked up. It's also a game that I can play RAW without griping about the way something works.

Today, we're noodling.
I've been wanting to do something with the magic system in B/X to make it more...DCC. I considered doing a direct port, but things get real messy, real quick. I feel like Goodman Games got it right with the DCC magic system. It's chaotic, and dangerous, and most importantly comes from something that isn't mortal. I want a taste of that in my B/X games.

This house rule makes the assumption that there is only one magic-using class in your game. Call it whatever you want, but I only intend to present a single spell list. Cleric spells, and the Turn Undead ability are rolled into this list.

We also assume that magic comes from some other power. Be it a god, a demon, a ghost, that really big fish in the pond, etc. A patron, if you will. This patron also grants unique corruption when a spells spectacularly. These patrons can be ported directly from DCC's various sources.

Lastly, we assume you're okay with the sin of pseudo-vancian magic.
Gygax, forgive me


When the Magic-User casts a spell, consult the table below.

Failure, lost, corruption
Failure, lost
Success, lost
Great Success, lost
Great Success, Retained

On a result of 12 the mental imprint of the spell remains on their mind, and the spell may be cast again as if it wasn't cast in the first place. 

You could include bonuses for Intelligence, or level, but I prefer to let the curve of 2d6 do all of the lifting. If you decided to allow bonuses, you need to consider what happens when a 2 is rolled. Does the bonus override it, or do you treat it as a natural 1?

DCC aficionados will notice a lack of misfires. This is for 2 reasons; 1) I don't have the energy to write misfires for each spell, 2) This is already slowing down combat.
You could easily lift the misfires presented in DCC to fill the need.


Example spells

Turn Undead
Range: 150' | Duration: 1 turn
Success: 2d6 HD worth of undead monsters are turned. The monster will not touch the Magic-User and will flee from the area if it can.
Great Success: 2d6 HD worth of undead monsters are Dispelled (destroyed or disintegrated).
Corruption: The Magic-User takes takes on the visage of the creature they were attempting to turn. Skin melts off the face, finger bones become exposed, flesh rots, etc. This should result in difficulties with future social encounters (penalties to reaction rolls, and the like). 

Detect Magic
Range: 60' | Duration: 2 turns
Success: Magic items the Magic-User can see within range glow.
Great Success: As success, and the Magic-User gleans additional information about these items. If they are cursed, the items glow a different color than the rest. The Magic-User may select one item (if more than one are being looked at) and know generally how powerful it is, and how to use its basic functions.
Corruption: The Magic-User is blinded for the duration of the spell.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Locale: Ald Redaynia

Pulled directly from the Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind video game. 

Ald Redaynia, a ruined Velothi Tower. Note the Giant fungus and standing stones.

“This tower contains the Bittercup, a unique artifact which is involved in a Thieves Guild quest. The Skeleton War-Wizard here also holds the artifact Vampiric Ring, which casts a very effective Absorb Health and Fatigue spell on touch. Also be sure to check out the flooded lower level which is well hidden as it appears to be blocked off by rubble. There is, however, a path between the rubble and the wall which only becomes visible when you move to the right of the doorway. The key to access the tower's top level awaits those who find this somewhat hidden area, as does a submerged chest full of leveled loot."

This screams adventure locale to me. What isn't there to like? A powerful relic guarded by a high level skeleton WAR wizard, and a flooded lower level? Come on, it's the perfect set up for a one page dungeon, or a one shot, or to just drop on your map somewhere. We can also extract the in-game quests surrounding this locale to provide hooks, and interesting NPCs. The stats I'm using should work with your run-of-the-mill old-school games, some tweaking/addition will be required for other rules (such as 5e). 


Let's start with some hooks. 

In game, Gentleman Jim Stacey (of the Thieves Guild) asks you to recover the Bittercup from the tower. Currently at war with the Camonna Tong (the local crime syndicate), the guild is looking for allies. A ranking member of the Fighter's Guild, Eydis Fire-Eye, is willing to betray the Camonna Tong in exchange for the relic. 

This is a solid start if you have characters with an existing tie to a thieves guild. It's also the most video gamey" way to introduce the locale - a basic fetch quest. 

Let's use some rumors to get the players interested in the locale.

“The dang skeletons are coming out of the groud near Ald Redaynia. They're ruining my day-tour business! Payment offered for removal of said undead." 
- Hreirek the Lean, a local guide (and member of the thieves guild)

“Ald Redaynia was once the tower of a powerful grand-wizard. They say his legacy, powerful relics or some such, are locked away inside."
- Tefeb, local drunkard

“We steer clear of Ald Redaynia. They say it's haunted by spirits. Last year a boy drowned near the tower."
- Hagfen, local fishermen

“Ald Redaynia was built by the first Alpi (Elves) who visited this region, back before the founding of the Empire, and long before the tribal dynasties that came before. It's a wonder the tower still stands. Perhaps the secrets to its longevity lie inside?"
- Alded, the local witch

The Bittercup


Before we go on here's some info on the relics found within the Tower. 

Bittercup: Created by a jovial demon prince who grants power and wishes through ritual invocations and pacts. Drinking from the cup causes your highest stat to increase by 1d6 and your lowest stat to decrease by 1d6. After drinking from the cup, it turns to dust.

Vampiric Ring: This powerful relic, despite its name, was not created by or for vampire followers, but instead by a cult from a bygone age for purposes lost to time. This ring is very powerful, and should attract the attention of cultists wherever it is taken. When used (an action) the ring absorbs the life force (3d6 HP) from the target and restores that much HP to the user. The ring has 2 charges. The charges are restored under every full or blood moon.

War Staff: Functions as a Staff of Power. 

The rewards granted for clearing this area are incredibly powerful, thus guarded by incredibly powerful foes. Let's get some stats together for them. 

Bonelord: A 4 armed skeleton with some spell casting abilities. Typically found guarding ancient burial sites.  
No. Enc: 1d3, Align: Chaotic, Move: 60'(20'), AC: 6, HD: 6
Atks: 4 (Claws) @ 1d6e or Spells. Save: MU4, Morale: 12
Spells: Cause Fear, Magic Missile [3], Shield, Slow.

Skeleton, Black: Skeletal remains of mighty warriors infused with dark magic to make them stronger than a standard skeleton. 
These were published in Barrowmaze, so I can't copy the stats directly. They're basically 6 HD skeletons with Chain and Shields. The can also scream to cause fear (as the spell). 

Uldor the Skeleton WAR Wizard: Uldor traded some of his power in life for immortality through undeath. 
Align: Chaotic, Move: 60'(20'), AC: 5, HD: 9
Atks: War Staff, Vampiric Ring, or Spells. Save: MU9, Morale: 12
Spells: Shield, Cloudkill, Fireball, Baleful Polymorph

a Bonelord


Moving on to dungeon layout.

The tower's construction is overall pretty stable, save for the internal collapse on the eastern side of the chamber. 

The main entrance leads into the middle level. This chamber is guarded by up to 10 Black Skeletons and a Bonelord. 

This floor of the tower is ovular, maybe 60' across, near the center of the far wall is a ramp leading up to the balcony (top level). Combats raging for more than 2 rounds in the middle level will wake Uldor, who casts the shield spell, and moves in to support his guardians. 

Characters who spend time checking out the rubble on the eastern wall of this level will find a passage leading down to the lower level. Air flowing up from the lower level is feels damp. 


The lower level is flooded (foundation crack near the bank of the river). 4 Black Skeletons guard this area. Moving through the partially collapsed passage could trigger a full collapse, resulting in the utter demise of those caught beneath. 4/6 chance, adjusted by precautions taken by the characters (or use whatever resolution mechanism you're comfortable with). 

There's a locked, waterlogged, chest 20' below the water's surface.
Roll a random gem or treasure horde for the contents, or put something else down there.


The top level is a large balcony that overlooks the middle. If the characters take care of the threats on the middle level in less than 2 rounds Uldor will be up here meditating near the Altar. There is also a bonelord and 4 black skeletons. Uldor will attempt to flee with the Bittercup if the fight appears to be tipping in the player's favor. 

Along with the Bittercup the altar holds 2 large soulgems (gigantic gemstones) and a huge pile of gold coins. 


A more interesting approach would be to grab one of Dyson's Tower maps and adjust this locale to fit. Here are some suitable candidates. 

Ashryn Spire
Guimond's Tower
Kabrel's Tower
Bandit's Tower

Happy Delving~

Monday, January 6, 2020

O5R: My take on 5e

I've been bound to online gaming for the better part of 4 years now, only really getting a chance to play face-to-face at conventions and the odd family gathering. My attempts at setting up OSR games at my local shops have been by and large, a failure - either not enough players, flaking, or just a gathering of...weird...people. Whether I like it or not, the system du jour is 5e. I'm not the first to say this, but you can get an OSR feel from 5e if you're willing to bend it a bit.

Below are the changes I'm making to 5e for my attempts at face-to-face games. My goal is to put an emphasis on resource management, deadly combats, and exploration based rewards.

NOTE: When possible, I'm sticking to the Basic (free) RAW or using variant options presented in the official material before making changes to the system.


Basic Rules: Use of the basic rules ensures 100% accessibility to the gaming table.

Ability Scores (pg. 9): Are generated with dice, as per the RAW.

Starting Wealth (pg. 45): Is rolled at 1st level. Starting equipment from your class is not used.

Encumbrance (pg. 63): Use the variant option.

Healer's Kit Dependency (DMG 266): Characters can only spend HD after a short rest if someone expends one use of a healer's kit to bandage their wounds.

Side Initiative (DMG 270): Each side rolls a d20 at the start of combat. Initiative is re-rolled at the start of each round.


Backgrounds: Are not used. You can write up a backstory for your character, but it wont have any mechanical effect. Character development emerges from play, thus happening at the table. Not away from it.

Fumbles: If you roll a natural 1 on an attack, the next creature to take the attack action against you does so with advantage. F is for Fun Fumble

Death Saves: One (and only one) save is made when combat is over. Other characters may attempt to stabilize the dying character by expending a use of a healer's kit to grant advantage on this roll. Combat is quick and deadly. This helps enforce the notion.

Resource Management: 1 ration and 1 filled waterskin is required for each day adventuring in the wilderness. Part of the wilderness adventuring phase will include finding a suitable place to camp. Camps provide adventurers with a clean water source to refill their skins. Exhaustion rules are strictly in effect. I love the 5e exhaustion rules. In my eyes, probably the most old-school thing about the system.

Experience points: Are gained by returning treasure found in the wilderness to the safety of civilization. Characters gain 1 XP for each GP brought back to town. Monsters only supply 1/10th of their listed XP values when slain. The goal is not to kill things, it's to be creative when in dangerous situations.

Setting: This is the big one. I'm not running a high fantasy game set in the Forgotten Realms. Instead, it's a frontier wilderness survival simulation. For the most part everything encountered in the wilderness is randomly generated. Town is considered safe all else is considered dangerous. Encounters are rolled randomly and are not balanced toward the player's level. That's not to say there won't be a story's just not written ahead of time. It will emerge from play, not the other way around.

Document: I made a "pretty" one page document containing this information. Can download/access it here